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Round 8 – North Melbourne v Sydney: I am not cheer squad material



I collapse into my seat at Etihad Stadium. I’m spent! The ball has not even been bounced yet. The TV executive who invented the 4.40pm Sunday time slot obviously didn’t have two boys under five years of age. I’ve already broken up 78 push and shoves, cut the crusts off 13 sets of vegemite sandwiches and read 22 Grug Books for the weekend. The Swans have looked tired this year. Has the toil of repeat finals campaigns wore us down? I must lift. The Swans must lift. We can do this.


I’m situated smack bang in cheer squad territory. I don’t think I fit in. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Swans, and have done so for decades, I just don’t feel compelled enough to paint my face or bring my own tambourine. The Swans fraternity is a broad church. Today I’m sitting with the fanatical. I work out early that I need to keep my wits about me, otherwise I’ll be wearing a flagpole in the retina.


It is a sport in itself to watch the goal umpire ply his trade up close. He paces around with the intensity of a matador, despite the fact the ball is 120 metres away. He may have sore feet tomorrow when he returns to his day job of dispensing parking fines.


Sitting so close to the action, I get a good appreciation of the hardness and speed of the game. Anyone who says the game isn’t tough is kidding themselves. Pleasingly, the Swans are up for the contest and a bit of niggle is breaking out all over the field. Papley and Naismith are the ringleaders. I think they may have spent a bit of time in the prinicpal’s office as kiddies. Lessons have been learnt from the meek effort versus Carlton a few weeks back.


We start well and the energy is evident. Parker snaps around the corner and we open up a three goal lead. Sam Reid is controlling the air at both ends of the ground and Hannebery is running to find space. We are not playing like a side that is 1-6. We have belief – on the field and in the stands.


The teenager next to me is playing an AFL game on his phone as the real action unfolds. A sign of the times I guess. Don’t let life pass you by young man. North kick a couple of settlers to end the quarter.


Old mate a few rows back is giving that tambourine a pounding as we break the game open in the second quarter. McVeigh strikes a chord for bald men all over Australia by kicking two goals in a matter of minutes, one from row ZZ on the half forward flank. Other than having a bald nut, McVeigh has polish and much needed voice to our line-up. It feels comforting to have him back on deck. I hope he can get over the ‘old man’ calf problems and play out the season.


Young Newman is finding plenty of the Sherrin and Heeney is displaying his skill and versatility across the ground. Every team needs a bloke from Wagga Wagga and Harry Cunningham is flying the flag well. Four goals to the good at half-time.


I part with $15 for a chicken burger that was most likely cooked some time before Colonel Sanders invented the secret herbs and spices. In hindsight, I should have just eaten the cardboard box.


Some bloke comes running down the aisle demanding high-fives. His breath would indicate that he has been on the booze since Tuesday. I hope he gets himself home in one piece tonight.


The third quarter is Swans footy at its best. Football is starting to feel normal again. The Swans are showing run, aggression and polish in everything we do. I wouldn’t swap Kennedy for any other player in the competition. He just finds the football and gets the job done, week after week, year after year. An old fashioned beauty.


My mind wanders. Are we out of it for 2017? Our best is up there with anyone. Can we start banking the wins and making ground on the top eight? Knock off the Saints this week and we would only be a few wins out of contention. I’m starting to believe and put September Holiday’s on hold as we pile on the goals.


The cheer squad is in full spirit in the final quarter. The game is in the bag. I’m not quite ready to pick up a flag and start waving it with intensity at head height level just yet though. My new friend next door balances a scoldingly hot cuppa on top of her Footy Record. The pessimist in me can see third degree burns coming my way if she rises to her feet to cheer on a Buddy snap from the boundary.


Perhaps most pleasing of all is that we are dominating while Buddy is not having a major impact on the scoreboard. The spread of goalkickers is much needed, despite how much I enjoy him kicking a bag. His battle with Tarrant is good value to watch. A battle within a battle.


The siren sounds and we salute for the second time in season 2017. Coming to the ground today I wasn’t sure what to expect. I can’t think of a bloke who didn’t play well. The energy was back. Blokes who looked like they had cement in their footy boots in April were suddenly running on top of the ground. How did we get it back? How did we lose it in the first place? Sport is such an unpredictable art form.


I’m not tired anymore. I spring out of my seat to belt out “Cheer! Cheer!” with boundless energy that was last seen when the Sony Walkman was cutting edge technology. I may stay up past 10pm tonight!


As supporters we want to believe. We want to hope. We want to think we are a shot at the big time. We are not there yet, and it will take one hell of a ride (and some luck) to get back into the hunt for season 2017. We have made steps in the last fortnight. Beat the Saints next week and we will move into a gallop.


Originally from Wagga Wagga, Craig Dodson loves the Swans, is tempted to pull on the boots – mainly cricket boots, but occasionally footy – from time to time, and has his energy taxed by two pre-school boys.


About craig dodson

Born in the sporting mecca that is Wagga Wagga and now reside in Melbourne with my lovelly wife Sophie and son's Jack and Harry. Passionate Swans supporter and formally played cricket at a decent level and Aussie Rules at a not so decent level! Spend my days now perfecting my slice on the golf course and the owner of the worlds worst second serve on the tennis course.

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